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A Guided Tour of Highly Sensitive Power

I want you to find what you’re looking for easily and browse fruitfully, so I’ve added a Guided Tour page for Highly Sensitive Power.

Though Highly Sensitive Power is not being added to, there’s still enough traffic to the site (which makes me happy) to warrant adding tools for searchers. I want you to have an easy time finding what you needed in the two years of articles here supporting sensitivity and creativity.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at my new website, The Curious Writer (a field guide for finding your own way) The Writer’s Shepherd (find your words. share your wisdom.) — same site, better name.

I hope you’re thriving, well, and happy.


New Website

I’ve got a new home on the Web: You’ll find articles, recommendations, and examples about following curiosity to find passion and insight.

Most of this year has been spent musing in various ways about my trajectory and what I’d like it to be. The new website is one of the results — and a way to offer encouragment about living a life that matters on a deep level.

I hope to see you there. I’ve missed you.

Two Years Later

My feet on a mossy bridge, by Grace KerinaI started creating this website within days of being laid off from a job I loved, in May of 2008. I’d been thinking of the website for a while and suddenly, unexpectedly, I had lots of free time to bring it to life, as I processed the lay-off and considered what to do next for income.

I’d never built a website before. The many days and weeks of floundering around as I researched, experimented, made mistakes, and crept forward occupied me and gave me a mission that filled the void where my job had been.

Over time, as the website went live and I shifted my focus to writing posts and e-books, I began to make contact with people who I connected with easily. They became my new colleagues.

Slowly, very slowly – often too slowly – the connections I made and the multitude of experiments I conducted using the website as a base began to steer my course. The website took on the role of mirror and path, showing me myself and showing me the way forward.

Bit by bit, I learned how to focus who I am and what I want for myself into services and products others value enough to pay for. Since the lay-off, I’ve been unwilling to put all my eggs in one basket again, preferring an income composed of lots of diverse sources, which feels more stable and within my control. This has taken longer to create, for me, than simply finding another job, and has had its rough patches – long ones, sometimes.

My reflection in a puddle, by Grace KerinaOver the past two years, I’ve done more than revive my income. I’ve come home, thanks to following the trail of Highly Sensitive Power. The spreadsheet where I track my income shows 16 different sources of income now. My colleagues have become my friends. And my path unwinds before me more clearly than ever.

Thank you for helping me. Your presence alone gave me fuel when I was stuck and stranded and needed power. Your emails and comments, the phone conversations we’ve had, the look in your eyes when we’ve met, and the connections we’ve made helped me see myself and love myself. I adore you.

What’s next? My current growth spurt has me grappling (for the first time in two years) with issues like having to choose between things I love because there’s only so much time in a day. If I love everything I’m doing, how do I choose which ones not to do, in order to sleep and stay balanced? Well, I’m figuring that out, in a floundering + learning sort of way.

In the process, I may not post articles here as often or as regularly as I have been, but I am still here, still curious, still creating, and still adoring you. Stay tuned.

~ ~ ~

If you or someone you know is interested is writing a guest post for Highly Sensitive Power, or if you consider yourself successfully sensitive, I invite you to check out the guidelines below and send me your creation, which I’ll consider for publication on Highly Sensitive Power. See the About page for my email address.

Guest Posts – About 400 words on the topic of Highly Sensitive Power (the website’s tagline, “empowering sensitivity through curiosity, creativity, and community” and the many posts in the blog give you an idea of the broad scope of interpretation possible); not previously published anywhere else. Feel free to run possible topics by me before you write.

Successfully Sensitive – Answer the following questions, in this order: In what way are you most successfully sensitive? What or who has inspired you to embrace your sensitivity? What are your eternal fascinations? What quest currently captivates you? What is your favourite kind of support to give? Aim for succinct answers to the questions, rather than long ones. Include a 100-word-max bio (including a link or two to you, if you want) and a photo.

Related reading: Successfully Sensitive | Samantha Reynolds, Avoid the Rush – Finish Last

Photos by Grace

Ode to Non-HSP Friends

together, by eflonMy non-HSP friends help me in ways that make my life easier, like when …

  1. They cut to the chase and instantly see two options I can choose from rather than the 3,327 options I had been grappling with. I’m so thankful then because I suddenly see how to take action.
  2. They tease me about my sensitivities in ways that are very loving and accepting and, in the process, help me take myself less seriously. (Non-HSP: “Okay, since I’m ready to leave the house, that must mean it’ll take you ten more minutes of sock wrinkle abatement and whatnot. No problem. I’ll be reading in the living room. Honk the horn when you’re in the car with your hand on the key.”)
  3. They understand and accept my tongue-in-cheek motto – “Adjustments Must Be Made” – and even say it out loud themselves when they’re trying to understand me. (“Are you going to be fiddling around with the pillows during the entire DVD, or what? Oh, right, ‘Adjustments Must Be Made.’ I’ll wait.”)
  4. They ask me for help, knowing I see things in a way they don’t, then listen with an open mind.
  5. They get things done quickly when time is of the essence and when I would have taken a long time so as to make quadruply sure I didn’t leave anything out or undone, on principle, rather than because it really mattered.
  6. They help me in social situations, by holding my hand and doing the talking for both of us while I get my bearings, or checking up on me regularly, or introducing me to a quiet friend they think I’ll like.
  7. They are the same as me. When I notice their sameness, our common traits, and the many ways we are alike, it reminds me that together we are a whole and healthy humanity, a combination of samenesses and differences that works. We are peas in the same human pod and I’m glad to be here with them. I’m glad we are a we.

Related reading: Specifics Trump Stereotypes, Book | Kinship with All Life

Flickr photo: together, by eflon

British TV Dramas

Shakespeare RetoldShakespeare Retold – Loving or even tolerating Shakespeare is not a prerequisite for enjoying the Shakespeare tales retold in this BBC set. They’re so retold and modernized and re-set that even if you do know Shakespeare well, the freshness will intrigue. My favourites are The Taming of the Shrew, with tiny Shirley Henderson as the nasty-tempered Member of Parliament who’s on the rise in her career, but going nowhere in her personal life … until strapping Petruchio, played by Rufus Sewell, decides to tame her – and gets tamed himself in the process. My other favourite is Much Ado About Nothing, which takes place in the setting of a TV studio news Shooting the Pastprogram, where Beatrice (Sarah Parish) and Benedick (Damian Lewis) eviscerate each other with cutting banter until they’re each tricked into believing the other one is in love with them and mayhem and hilarity ensue. I found the Macbeth episode (with John McAvoy Keeley Hawes) too tragic, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream rather tedious.

Shooting the Past – In this beautiful, classy drama, the protagonists are a group of library employees who will stop at nothing to save the vast photographic collection they tend to which is housed in a large London house slated for redevelopment by a US property developer. The various strategies the librarians pursue and the tangles that result, are stunningly surrounded The Woman in Whiteand infused by the photographs themselves. We, as viewers of the show, are treated to many, many curious, interesting, gorgeous, historical photos. In fact, the photos themselves play an important role in the outcome of the escalating tension between the developer and the archivists. This three-hour drama is unlike anything I’ve seen in its combination of pace, tension, art, twists, and outcome.

The Woman in White – Wilke Collins’ novel of the same name (a fine read, if you’re inclined) translates well in this dramatization. A Victorian gothic tale of conspiracy and desperate measures, the drama centers around a mysterious woman in white who may or may not divulge Island at Warher secret in time, a secret which may save the lives of others.

Island at War – Until this mini-series, I knew nothing about the British Channel Islands, just off the coast of France. Set on the fictional Channel Island of St. Gregory, the multi-episode story covers a portion of the time the island is occupied by the Nazis during World War II, interweaving actual history – the real Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazis – and the detailed stories of individual characters. I found myself drawn in by the historical oddities brought to light in this slice of history, as well as by the changes the characters (Channel Islanders as well as Nazis) go through over the course of the series. (As an aside, I recently read and quite enjoyed a novel about the Channel Islands occupation and the time that immediately followed: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If you think you’ll watch the series and read the book, I suggest reading the book after you’ve watched.)

Related Reading: British TV Crime Dramas – Parts One, Two, and Three
Gems | Movies | Unusual Love Stories

Inner Dialogues

The Softest Light, by chaps1

More than a year ago I wrote an article on writing out conversations between myself and the wiser part of me – “Conversations Between Me and U.” The tool of having dialogues with myself has been so useful, and in such surprising ways, that I want to tell you how it’s evolved.

While exploring Lora Sasiela’s Financially Smitten website, I found her “Money Dialogue Exercise” (which she adapted from Olivia Mellan’s Money Harmony). Sasiela suggests:

“Start by imagining that your Money is a person with whom you are having a relationship. Imagine having a conversation with your Money about how the relationship is going.”

I tried it and discovered that My Money has the voice of a swank benevolent dictator with a B.S. meter fine-tuned at the atomic level. After only one extremely intense, handwritten dialogue with My Money, everything – and I really mean everything – shifted for me. Since then: growth spurts on multiple fronts, including financial.

Next, I started the Unravelling e-course offered by Susannah Conway and, one day, while checking out the books she recommends on her website, I found The New Diary, by Tristine Rainer (a pal of Anaïs Nin’s). How have I never come across this book before? It was published in 1978 and is chock-full of journaling ideas that shift the Earth on its axis.

One of the “Seven Special Techniques” Rainer covers is dialogue. Does your leg hurt? Write out a conversation with it and find out what’s going on. Have you been wondering where your sexuality has gone? Find out, simply by daring to invite it into a dialogue. Converse with friends and family members in your journal, or chat with your garden or with your aching heart. My most recent conversation was between me and My Gifts, and produced a wonderful shocker of a result. The possibilities are endless.

Rather than promoting an unhealthy splitting of internal aspects of ourselves, Rainier says these dialogues divide the self in order to “bring it together again in greater harmony.” And that’s been exactly my experience. The more I experiment with this technique, the more sharply and quickly my world comes into focus (with lights flashing to clearly mark my now-obvious path forward) and the more I feel both like myself and wise beyond myself.

Related reading: Hidden Lives Revealed, Revise the Story

Flickr photo: The Softest Light, by chaps1

Cranium Sanctum

Daydreaming, by Kr. B.

What do you allow and what do you suppress in the privacy of your own mind? Does the habit of limiting and restricting input – light, sound, chaos, profusions, and multiplicities – extend to keeping your own thoughts at bay?

We are unobserved inside our own minds.

What if, in the pure privacy of your mind, you allowed yourself to be a god – brave, bold, benevolent, and endless? There’s room for everything in there. In here. Within.

We can go far, we can safely edge our toes out over the lip of too far, and yet never leave our cranial homeland. We can…

  1. Redress wrongs
  2. Explore parallel universes
  3. Live out other lifetimes
  4. Take what-ifs to the nth degree
  5. Tempt Fate
  6. Try on different personalities
  7. Wildly mutate time and reality
  8. Follow detours
  9. Grow old or young
  10. Glimpse the outermost edges
  11. Unshackle and unharness
  12. Flex the rust from timidity
  13. Emerge victorious after all
  14. Probe mysteries and depths
  15. Become smaller or larger
  16. Enchant people
  17. Rewrite history
  18. Evoke strong feelings
  19. Move cities from A to B
  20. Predict the future
  21. Resurrect the dead
  22. Fall in love a thousand times a day
  23. End wars

Where does your mind end? What point have you stopped travelling beyond in your mind? Your imagination, the holy infinity in your head, can show you everything missing in your outer life, in multi-sensory detail, with amendments, revisions, special effects, instant replays, and timeless certainty.

What roams free in the timeless anti-history of your unexplored mind? Find out. Follow the arrowhead at the end of the minute hand, out past the edge of the clock.

Related reading: Keyholes

Flickr photo: Daydreaming, by Kr. B.

Growth Spurt Management

Brussel sprout seedlings, by Librarianguish

I’m going through a growth spurt. It’s messy and unpleasant. I wobble without cease. My foundation keeps shifting.

Not that I’m knocking growth spurts. No, indeed. A hefty growth spurt, one that knocks the pins out from underneath to make way for a stronger platform to jump from, often does the heavy lifting required to get from here to the next level.

The nature of a growth spurt is that it’s a blip, a bell curve, a temporary push. We tolerate the upheaval to get to the down slope and the richer pastures beyond.

What’s needed are tools for getting through intact. Mini cease-and-desist moments inserted into the swirling maelstrom offer breathing room and calm, even if only briefly. Plus, they seem to add up, reducing the overall hyperventilation level to more sustainable doggy panting.

The core Growth Spurt Management tactic I use is an elbow-room list, a catalogue of things that make me disengage temporarily, even if only momentarily. I craft the list with brutal honesty, only listing things that really work for me, such as:

  1. Listen to monumentally cheesy English-lyric Latin dance songs (no, I won’t tell you who) on my MP3 player (audio privacy, in this case, is utterly crucial; the last thing I need during a growth spurt is to be made fun of).
  2. Talk to my mother, who’s a fathomless source of unconditional love. She really gets me.
  3. Meditate, however I can, even if I feel like I’m only trying, and even if only for seconds at a time.
  4. Write in my journal. Write as many pages as possible – there’s no such thing as too much, unless my writing hand flops over in fatigued surrender, which has been known to happen.
  5. Indulge in stories – novels, DVD movies – that take me far away.
  6. Watch the British TV series Sharpe, for a role model of courage, integrity, and growing through tough spots rather than trying to avoid them.
  7. Walk alone in nature, particularly along deserted country lanes where no one will notice if I stump along like Frankenstein and drool.
  8. Take photos of whatever the heck I want, even if I don’t remotely understand why I’m doing it.
  9. Lie on the bed with the door closed and focus on breathing through my heart.
  10. Write and post the articles I most need to read.

During frighteningly intense growth spurt phases, I carry my list around in a pocket during the day and hold it in my fist as I fall asleep at night.

Related reading: Pep Talk | Keel Over, Successfully Sensitive | Richard Sharpe

Flickr photo: Brussel sprout seedlings, by Librarianguish

June HSP Gathering

Drumbeg Provincial Park, by Grace Kerina

One of the earliest articles I wrote on Highly Sensitive Power was about HSP Gatherings. It’s now almost two years later and I’ll be attending one in a few months, right here on the little island in British Columbia where I live.

Jacquelyn Strickland, the mastermind behind the HSP Retreat Gatherings, hosted a Gathering here on Gabriola Island a few years ago, which I didn’t attend, but wanted to. Though I didn’t move to Gabriola Island to save on lodging costs during the Gathering, I’m definitely now in the right place at the right time. I’m enjoying helping Jacquelyn pull the details together, including plans for a hike I’ll lead through and around Drumbeg Provincial Park, which is just along the shore from the little bay I live on.

People come from all over to attend HSP Gatherings — they’re not only for whoever’s in the area. June in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia is a prime vacation destination. Perhaps I’ll see you here then.

For more information, visit the June HSP Gathering info page on Jacquelyn’s website. Please let me or Jacquelyn know if you have any questions.

Photo taken from Drumbeg Provincial Park, Gabriola Island, BC, by Grace Kerina

Related reading: The Power of Community, HSP Gatherings

Working with a Sensitive Professional

Good Friends, by Juliana Coutinho

What’s it like to work with a highly sensitive professional? My own experiences have been marvellous and life-changing. The flurry of activity Jenna Avery and I are in the thick of as we bring The Sensitive Professionals Network further into the public eye offer a good example.

When Jenna and I work together, I relax into the process in a way that’s unique and that I often experience when I collaborate and work with other HSPs. The quality and depth of our collaboration continually please and amaze me. Here are some of the specific and positive qualities I’ve noticed as we’ve worked together:

  • We listen to each other. No issue is too odd or too small or too hot to delve into. And when we’ve delved, the project and our relationship are better.
  • We solicit each other’s opinions. We genuinely want to know what the other person thinks and we value our perspectives, even when they’re different, which they often are.
  • We bend as needed. There’s blessedly little ego in the collaboration. We each have the ability and willingness to move aside and let the project be the star.
  • When we disagree, no one has to win. We set the topic aside and gather more information. Or we wait. Or one of us simply lets go. There’s no winner and no loser. Only forward motion.
  • We have lots and lots to say to each other. Any scheduled phone conversation can go into overtime, and often does, simply because there’s so much to share. The tangents are multitudinous and must be kept in check. It’s a great feeling to know there’s an infinity of richness to tap into when we get together.
  • We learn from each other. Although we’re the same in some very foundational ways – through our shared high sensitivity – we’re very different in other ways and we’re both open to learning and teaching. I’m getting a great education through this collaboration.

Try it for yourself. Browse the directory listings on The Sensitive Professionals Network (SPN) website or consider listing yourself as available for connecting to other HSPs. We’ll soon start accepting new directory listings– we’ll announce it on the SPN website. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you can receive our gift of the Success Checklist for Sensitive Professionals by taking our survey (the survey will close this Thursday, March 25, at 7 Eastern Time).

Related reading: Highly Sensitive Havens, Narrative Medicine

Flickr photo: Good Friends, by Juliana Coutinho

Will You Give Us Your Input?

Bench at Schloss Glienicke, by Grace KerinaDear Sensitive Soul,

If you have your own business or have considered starting one (frankly, as a highly sensitive person, that’s a great way to go), you may have bumped into some challenges along the way about how to get the word out about the work you love.

Jenna Avery and I are in the process of creating a high-quality support network for sensitive professionals. We’d love to have your input via a short seven-question survey. As a thank-you, we’ll give you a free gift.

To start taking the survey, click on this link:

Begin Sensitive Professionals Survey [survey now closed]

Thank you!

With confidence in you,
Grace Kerina
Jenna Avery

Sensitive Professionals Network

Photo: Bench at Schoβ Gleinicke, by Grace Kerina

Relief with Teeth

Dozer TracksThere’s relief – the kind of palliative care that shifts us from an uncomfortable moment into a slightly more comfortable moment temporarily – and then there’s Relief with Teeth. Relief with Teeth bites the earth beneath your current stance and makes marks as it makes tracks. There’s no half way about it. You’d better brace yourself for a jolt as those powerful teeth dig in to accelerate.

Which option do you think will make your life much better much sooner – the Band-Aid or the bulldozer?

Palliative care is dusting the tabletop. Relief with Teeth is rearranging the furniture. Palliative care is managing cash flow with the calculator set on four decimal places. Relief with Teeth is doing whatever it takes to find the perfect customers and wow them with your natural gifts.

Relief with Teeth starts in the centre of your chest, where your heart is. The rumble of heavy machinery lives there. Dusting and pinching pennies to avoid the real issues means the mind is afraid. And it should be – real relief means real change. Relief that permanently changes your life involves the heart as much as the head. Your pulse shifts into a higher gear. Otherwise, you would have changed already, right?

You’ll be okay, though, because Relief with Teeth is both grounding and propelling. And the best part is that you already know exactly what to do. Really. Check in with your pulse. You’ll find answers there, along with a hardhat and the keys to the bulldozer.

Quit raking leaves. Grind some ground instead. Move the Earth.

Related reading: Pep Talk | Defend Your Territory, Pep Talk | Choose

Flickr photo: Dozer Tracks, by adamr.stone

Successfully Sensitive | Sarah and Suzi

Sarah and Suzi

How could I not be drawn to Sarah Seidelmann and Suzi Vandersteen? As designers, they guide clients to find the sweet spot where self-acceptance meets great design. As unabashed emissaries of friendship and play, they teach self-exploration and design recovery through entertainment. They laugh, they whoop it up, and they invite whole people to join the party – all our bits are not only welcome, but necessary.

Suzi and Sarah’s design business is Kitchee Gammi Design Company. Joy Junket is their amusement park of a website.

In what way are you most successfully sensitive?

I think what we do really well is that when we have the initial meeting with the client we carefully gather information regarding what’s important to them in terms of the space we’re designing. Then we interpret all the information and collaborate with them on the design. With each update and new idea presented we watch carefully for reactions and feedback so we know when to make changes in the plan and when to reassure the client.

What or who has inspired you to embrace your sensitivity?

Probably responding to and working with many of our clients who had worked with other artists and designers who didn’t listen carefully to their needs and concerns. We feel design is intensely personal and intimate, and we’re privileged to be asked to work with people in their homes. The fact that we’re both always working towards spiritual progress (not perfection) leads us to listen carefully to everyone we work with, from clients to sub-contractors. We then, of course, take those data points and feed them into the design filter of Kitchee Gammi Design Company, resulting in a design that reflects the collaboration.

What are your eternal fascinations?

Beauty, function, the infinite possibilities inherent in how different people live in their homes, nature, good flea markets (treasure hunting), other businesses that bring their own points of view and have fun doing it, fashion, travel to exotic locales (Istanbul, India, Japan …), the makings of a good party, new food finds – essentially all the creative arts and the infinite offerings of new creations that we see every day.

What quest currently captivates you?

Finding a balance between work, play, and family, as all the variables are constantly changing.

We realize that many people don’t need a COUCH, they need a COACH to help them realign with their heart’s desires, so we’ve added coaching services to our menu. Sarah is currently doing additional coaching training with Oprah’s Martha Beck and is freaked out by how limitless personal transformation is.

What is your favourite kind of help to give?

We love to encourage others to live beautifully on their own terms: Don’t do what we do. Do what you do! And we love to encourage fun and laughter all along the way.

Related Reading: Successfully Sensitive | Dolly Hopkins, Book | A Pattern Language

A Bespoke Life

(untitled), by bird_flew

What’s it like to wear a bespoke suit, a suit custom-made to fit me and only me? I want a life like that. I want a plan, a pattern, a path that takes into consideration all the weird, unruly, shocking, steadfast little and big things that combine to shape me. But how?

“The word bespoke itself is derived from the verb to bespeak, to ‘speak for something,’ in the specialized meaning ‘to give order for it to be made.’”
~ Wikipedia entry for Bespoke

What plan speaks for me? Cookie-cutter solutions need not apply. If I can’t make it fit me, if I can’t make it mine, all mine, then forget it. I’ve scoured office supply stores, art supply stores, read books and websites by goal gurus and earnest cheerleaders of every stripe and found only an elite few who make the cut, including these two…

For the past two weeks I’ve been pulling together a strategic planner for 2010, guided by what artist and business school graduate (a combination that thrills me) Lisa Sonora Beam does for herself every year. Although I’m still creating my plan, the power inherent in the thoroughly self-customized system has already taken me so far further along my way than I’d imagined possible that I’m almost scared to continue. The zoom is palpable. For more about this intensely customizable system, see Lisa Sonora Beam’s “Goal Setting for Creatives: My 2010 Strategic Planner.”

One of the zoomy surprises to burst forth from my 2010 Strategic Planner process is that a friend offered to sponsor my fees for an e-course that seems perfectly designed to help me further custom-make my life: Susannah Conway’s Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self, which combines photography, journaling, comrades, Susannah’s strong heart, and the promise of deep self-connection.

The primary goal of both systems is to put me in touch with myself in a way that encourages invention, supports forgiveness and acceptance, and fills the silence with my voice, even if I choose to be quiet. What could be more fittingly comfortable than that?

Related reading: Book | The Creative Entrepreneur, by Lisa Sonora Beam

Flickr photo: (untitled), by bird_flew

How to Keep a Friend

Old friends, by kevindooleyStart with the first step. Proceed.

  1. Make a new friend.
  2. Spend time together.
  3. Be your true self, especially when it’s difficult.
  4. Disagree.
  5. Let them go.
  6. Figure out how to soothe yourself.
  7. Welcome them back.
  8. Willingly fall further into friendship’s gooey centre.
  9. Copy what you envy.
  10. Forget who’s who.
  11. Draw a line.
  12. Notice recurring border skirmishes.
  13. Learn about yourself.
  14. Draw a different line, one that includes all of you.
  15. Do your best, even if it’s not enough.
  16. Take a break.
  17. Notice what changes.
  18. Ruthlessly work to take back any unkindness.
  19. Hold your friend’s hands until they’re warm again.
  20. Decide to love yourself best by forgiving, even if you’re not sure how.
  21. Remember all the good things. (There were lots.)
  22. Accrue private jokes.
  23. Count up the years.
  24. Catalogue the stories and talk about them in code.
  25. Accept the whole friend, including what bugs you about them.
  26. Realize that you wouldn’t be you without your friend.
  27. Praise the change you got from them.
  28. Praise the change you resisted.
  29. Get to know your friend’s friends.
  30. Make a new friend.

Related reading: Pep Talk | Flip, Book | How to Live with an Idiot

Flickr photo: Old friends, by kevindooley